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Importer finally recalls papayas linked to deadly outbreak

A week after Maryland officials issued a public warning linking Caribeña  brand maradol papayas to a Salmonella outbreak, produce distributor Grande Produce LLC finally went public with a recall of the implicated fruit.

In the company’s recall notice, posted late Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, Grande Produce of San Juan, TX, reported it has stopped receiving papayas from the grower in Mexico that supplied the fruit linked to the outbreak. Neither the grower nor the region of Mexico where the papayas came from have been identified.

As of Tuesday, one person had died and 46 others across a dozen states had been lab-confirmed with infections from the outbreak strain of Salmonella, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twelve of the victims had symptoms so severe they required hospitalization.

Maryland officials collected papayas from a grocery store in Baltimore where some sick people said they shopped. Laboratory tests showed the fruit was contaminated with the same strain of Salmonella isolated from the sick people.

“Environmental microbial testing conducted by Grande Produce of its facilities has been negative for the Salmonella organism to date” according to the recall notice on the FDA website.

“The company is coordinating closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies in their investigations and will provide any assistance possible.”

Grande Produce did not provide distribution details about regions or specific retailers that received the recalled Caribeña brand maradol papayas. Its recall notice did confirm that it distributed papayas in Maryland, where at least five people have been confirmed as outbreak victims.

The recalled papayas distributed by Grande Produce may have these stickers on them.

“(The) Maryland distribution center where the papayas were delivered has already notified retail customers to remove the recalled papayas from inventories, store shelves and the stream of commerce,” according to the Wednesday recall notice.

Distribution dates for the papayas recalled by Grande Produce run from July 10 through July 19, according to the Wednesday recall notice.

However, in its Tuesday consumer alert, FDA reported different distribution dates and reported that the company had not gone public with the recall. The agency

“Grande Produce has informed the FDA that the company initiated a limited recall of their Caribeña brand Maradol papayas distributed nationwide from July 7 – July 18,” FDA reported Tuesday.

“As of July 25, Grande Produce has not issued a press release to notify consumers of their recall. Therefore, FDA is advising consumers to avoid all Caribeña brand Maradol papayas. The FDA also noted that there are illnesses in states where Grande Produce did not distribute papayas and is continuing its investigation.”

As of Wednesday night, Food Safety News had not received any responses to requests for comment sent to Grande Produce officials CEO Juan Cano, COO Raul Cano, and Food Safety Advisor Abraham Dajlala.

Earlier Wednesday, grocery retailer Aldi posted a recall notice on its website for all brands maradol papayas, citing federal and state warnings about the Salmonella outbreak.

Walmart posted a link to the CDC’s outbreak alert on the recall page of its website.

As of Wednesday night, Grande Produce had not posted any recall information on its website. The company was still offering maradol papayas of undeclared origin for sale.

“Consumers who may have purchased the Caribeña brand of papayas are advised not to eat them and to dispose of them instead. A full refund is available where purchased or from Grande Produce at 888-507-2720,” according to the recall notice on the FDA website.

Advice to consumers, restaurants and retailers
State and federal public health officials recommend applying the golden rule of food safety regarding papayas on hand in homes and businesses: When in doubt, throw it out.

Additional recommendations from CDC include:

  • If you aren’t sure if the papaya you bought is a yellow Maradol papaya, you can ask the place of purchase. Restaurants and retailers can ask their suppliers.
  • If you have had whole, fresh papayas in your home or business, wash and sanitize countertops, cutting boards and utensils, as well as drawers or shelves in refrigerators where papayas were stored, with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or new paper towel.
  • Wash your hands with running water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Anyone who has eaten fresh papaya recently and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection is urged to seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure so the proper diagnostic tests can be performed.

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and fever. Symptoms usually begin between 12 to 36 hours after exposure, but they may begin as early as 6 hours or as late as 72 hours after exposure.

Symptoms can be mild or severe and commonly last for two to seven days. Salmonella can infect anyone, but young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections.

In the current outbreak, illnesses began on May 17, with the most recent confirmed case having reported symptom onset on June 28. The CDC believes additional victims will be identified because of the lag time between illness onset and when local health officials report the cases to state and federal authorities. People who became sick after June 23 could easily not yet be included in the victim count.

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